Celebrate Canada Day with colonial-era pictures

The UK National Archives have uploaded hundreds of pictures of colonial-era Canada just in time for Canada Day. On July 1, 1867, the British North America Act (known in Canada as the Constitution Act since 1982) united the colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada into a federal dominion of four provinces. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick remained the same; the Province of Canada was divided into Ontario and Quebec.

The new Confederation would retain the monarch as head of state, but would have a self-governing bicameral parliamentary system and, most appealing to Britain, it would fund its own defense. The removal of British troops and new political distance from Britain would help improve relations with Canada’s grumpy neighbor to the south which was nursing fresh grudges over Britain’s support for the Confederacy in the Civil War, and which would spend the rest of the century gobbling up new territory in the name of Manifest Destiny.

The pictures come from the Colonial Office’s Photographic Collection. There are 12 sets of pictures, from a collection taken during the Prince of Wales’ (the future Edward VIII who abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson) 1919 tour of Canada, to regional collections depicting grand natural vistas and the minutiae of daily life. You’ll find some of the first photographs ever taken of Canada in the 1850s buried in the sets, along with classic 1960s advertising from the National Film Board of Canada. You’ll also find a lot of First Nations misery documented, and some unpleasant period terminology like “half breed.”

The Newfoundland and Labrador set captures fishing villages from the late 19th century, including a remarkable 1892 panorama of French fishing rooms in Cape Rouge Harbour. Fishing rooms were waterfront locations where all the facilities necessary to trap, process, salt and store the catch (mainly cod) were built, along with dwellings for the workers and their families.

Panorama of French fishing rooms, Cape Rouge Harbour

There are also some fascinating diagrams of the equipment they used and ground plans for factories, homes, and warehouses.

Chippewa Wigwams & Grave on one of the Islands in the Lake of the Woods, 1876The Canadian Border set documents the expedition to map the boundary between Canada and the United States from 1872 to 1876. It was a joint project by participants from the United States Northern Boundary Commission, Royal Engineers from the British North American Boundary Commission, Canadian First Nations and Native American scouts, scientists, astronomers, cartographers, soldiers, ambulance teams, ox and mule teams and the teamsters that drove them. 75-ton floating crane lifting locomotive, Montreal, 1911The pictures convey how isolated this longest continuous boundary between two countries was even decades after it was formally drawn at the 49th parallel.

To go from that set to the industry of 1910s Quebec, or to the urban residences and dawning consumer gadget era documented in the Domestic architecture, 1920s set, or to the 1890s canal cuts and 1920s wheat fields of Alberta is like hopping through alternate dimensions.

Happy Canada Day!

Stolen rare 415-year-old atlas returned to Sweden

Royal Library map librarian Greger Bergvall holds Wytfliet Atlas at New York press conference WednesdayA rare copy of Cornelius van Wytfliet’s Atlas of the New World stolen from Sweden’s Royal Library a decade ago was officially returned during a news conference in New York City Wednesday.

"Descriptionis Ptolemaicae Augmentum sive Occidentis Notitia Brevi commentario illustrata Studio et opera Cornely Wytfliet Louaniensis"Published in 1597, the Descriptionis Ptolemaicae Augmentum was the first atlas documenting the geography and natural history of the Americas. Belgian cartographer Wytfliet used the writings of geographers José de Acosta and Giovanni Battista Ramusio, among others, to create 19 exceptionally accurate maps of South America, Central America, North America and the Caribbean, among them the first regional map of California ever printed. The book is one of only nine complete copies known to survive.

"Bayou Sacra, Luisiana," lithograph by Henry LewisIt was stolen by the former head of the library’s manuscript department, Anders Burius, who from the day he was hired in 1995 began to help himself to rare volumes which he would then sell to German auction house Ketterer Kunst. He managed to steal 56 books worth millions of dollars before the thefts were discovered in the spring of 2004. Over time he had gotten careless in his efforts to cover his tracks, so when a Royal Library staffer began searching for a copy of Das Illustrirte Mississippithal, a book of lithographs of the Mississippi River by American artist Henry Lewis published in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1858, she found a single remaining reference proving that the volume had once been in the library even though it had been removed from all the other indices, catalogues and inventories.

Atlantic coast of North America in Wytfliet AtlasRealizing that only an insider could have removed the book and almost all references to it, the library began a quiet but thorough investigation. They found other books were missing, all of them valuable. In November, they determined that only Burius had the physical access and in-depth knowledge to consistently pick the books with the highest current market values. Management confronted him and he admitted to being the thief. He hoped the library would keep things quiet and settle the matter internally, but of course they called the police.

On November 7, 2004, Anders Burius was arrested. While in jail he wrote a detailed list of all the books he had stolen from the Royal Library. A subsequent investigation found that he had stolen dozens of books from other libraries starting as early as 1986. He was no collector; he sold them to support his lifestyle of Armani suits, Cuban cigars and Mercedes Benzes. He would steal the books, remove any references to them in the library records, and erase the library marks from the books with a pencil eraser. Then he would sell them in Germany as Charles Fields from Denmark. (John Charles Fields was the Canadian mathematician who founded the Fields Medal, viz. Good Will Hunting.)

The closest Ketterer Kunst got to due diligence was to check for the library stamps he had removed and to make Burius sign a document attesting to his legal ownership of the books. They didn’t even check to see if there was such a person as Charles Fields in Denmark. They just paid him in cash and everyone went on their merry way.

Burius' Stockholm apartment building after the explosionThree weeks after his arrest, Burius’ wife filed for divorce. On December 3rd, the police released him pending a court date. Early in the morning of December 8th, he dragged a mattress into his kitchen, cut the gas tube leading to his oven, then lay down on his mattress and slit his wrists. A random spark from his refrigerator thermostat ignited the gas, setting off a massive explosion which blew out the walls, injured 11 people and forced the evacuation of 44 of his neighbors.

Burius’ body was found under the rubble of his apartment four days later. The medical examiner was unable to determine if he died in the explosion or from the gas or wrist-slitting. Thankfully, nobody else was killed in his last act of reckless selfishness.

World map in Wytfliet AtlasThe case was huge news in Sweden, but because the investigation was ongoing, the Royal Library didn’t publish the complete list of stolen books; so dealers and auction houses all over the world were still selling the purloined volumes, unaware of their origins. Wytfliet’s Atlas had been on the market for years and passed through several hands before a Royal Library librarian spotted it in 2011 for sale by New York map dealer W. Graham Arader III of Arader Galleries. Arader, a colorful character who in addition to being a highly successful dealer in antique maps and natural history prints has also been instrumental in helping authorities arrest several thieving dealers and collectors, had bought it from Sotheby’s London in 2003.

The Royal Library and Arader determined that it was the stolen copy, so he returned it to Sotheby’s and got his money back. Sotheby’s in turn decided to give the book back to the library. They sent it to New York for the return ceremony where representatives from the Royal Library reclaimed the first of Burius’ stolen treasures. They have now published a complete list of the stolen books (pdf) and registered it with booksellers and Interpol. They are cautiously optimistic that more of the books will be found now.

Chaplin’s notes for Nijinsky film found in Bologna

Recently discovered picture of Chaplin and Keaton on the Limelight setResearchers at the Cineteca di Bologna have discovered a previously unknown manuscript in Charlie Chaplin’s own hand outlining a film about legendary Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. The film was never made, but elements of it were included in Limelight, one of Chaplin’s last films, which featured his only on-screen appearance with that other great luminary of silent picture comedy, Buster Keaton. Four unpublished pictures of Keaton and Chaplin working together on the Limelight set were also discovered.

The Cineteca di Bologna is the custodian of the Charlie Chaplin Archive, an immense collection of Chaplin’s personal and professional documents. For years they’ve been cataloging and digitizing the paper documents and restoring the films in accordance with the wishes of Chaplin’s heirs. They found the manuscript while researching Limelight, appropriately enough, and will announce the find today at their Cinema Ritrovato (Rediscovered Film) festival in Bologna.

You can see the entire manuscript, complete with Chaplin’s strike-throughs and margin notes, in pdf form here. Click here to read the pdf transcript.

Chaplin manuscript, page oneChaplin manuscript, page twoChaplin manuscript, page threeChaplin manuscript, page four

Nijinsky met Charlie Chaplin in 1917 during the Ballets Russes dance company’s second and last tour of the United States. Nijinsky hadn’t participated in the first tour in 1916 because company director Sergei Diaghilev had fired him in 1913, furious that Nijinsky, his sometime lover, had married Hungarian countess, groupie and wannabe dancer Romola de Pulszky while on tour in South America, far from Diaghilev’s controlling oversight.

When war broke out in August 1914, Nijinsky, the missus and their newborn daughter were staying in Pulszky’s mother’s house in Budapest. There they stayed for the next two years, under house arrest as enemy noncombatants due to Nijinsky’s Russian citizenship. He was only released because the American promoter of the Ballets Russes’ second US tour stipulated that Nijinsky had to be part of the company, so Diaghilev pulled some strings, enlisting the intervention of Spanish King Alfonso XIII to secure permission for Nijinsky to leave Hungary for New York in September of 1916.

Nijinsky was by all accounts in poor form during the tour. He was out of practice from two years of house arrest and showing early signs of the schizophrenia that would end his career in 1919. He was convinced that the other dancers had it in for him, that they would leave a trap door open on stage for him to fall through. The tour was a financial and artistic disaster. The Ballets Russes never toured the US again.

In the middle of this turbulence, the company visited Chaplin on the set of Easy Street, a classic two-reel film co-starring Edna Purveyance from Chaplin’s productive and lucrative time under contract with Mutual Film. In 1916, Chaplin and Mutual had agreed to a yearly salary of $670,000, making him the highest paid entertainer in the world. They built him a studio of his own and gave him complete artistic freedom. Chaplin was at the peak of his powers when he met the great dancer at the nadir of his.

Twenty years later, Chaplin would write a treatment for a movie about Nijinsky, “the great genious of the Russian ballet,” whose insecurities make him come across as something of a brute, but who is a kind, generous spirit who in secret financially supports the drunken old dancer who almost injured him on stage. From the newly-discovered manuscript:

The theme of the play is that a career is not the fulfillment of man’s desires, but only a road leading to his destiny. Naginsky was inarticulate, sensitive and shy with a funny passion and an imagination that launched his soul, because he had only one means of expressing himself. […]

Characters: Naginsky, His Wife, Degaloff, an Old Friend, Dresser, Old Dancer
Action and the Intention Ballet to show the genius as a dancer. To show his relationship with the members of the company. To show how he intercedes with Degaloff on behalf of one of the members of the cast. To show his sense of justice. To show his loyalty to an old member of the cast who has been drinking because he is too old to dance. To show the old member making a mistake while the ballet is performing. This mistake almost causes N to injure himself and he heaps a tirade of abuses at the old man until he discovers that the old chap is suffering from rheumatism. Then he suggests that the old man should take a rest. The old man is afraid to because he cannot afford the expense of a hospital or the chance of losing his job. When D refuses to pay the old man’s expenses for a two weeks’ rest, N tells him that he will pay it and that he D can deduct the money from his salary. Naginsky But for heaven’s sake, do not tell the old fellow that I am paying the bills. The fool will be too proud to accept it.

Limelight posterIt’s the character of the old washed-up alcoholic performer whom Chaplin would reuse in Limelight, which was filmed in 1952, 15 years after Chaplin wrote the Nijinsky treatment. At the time, Chaplin insisted it would be his last film (it wasn’t; he made two more after that), so that young actor in his prime who had met Nijinsky in his decline was now in the waning days of his own stellar career.

Also, Buster Keaton was in dire straits himself when Chaplin hired him for Limelight. He had been financially devastated by a divorce and hadn’t been getting much work. The part was a small one, too small, Chaplin originally thought, for an actor of Keaton’s caliber. When he heard that Keaton had fallen on hard times, he insisted on casting the legend and gave him free rein to create his own routine in their shared scene, something that Chaplin never did.

So the unfilmed Nijinsky manuscript turns out to have several parallels with Chaplin’s later life and work. Chaplin plays the old drunk now, only he’s the one giving a down-on-his-luck colleague a hand in a respectful way. It’s a wheel-has-come-full-circle moment.

Confirmed:Capitoline Wolf is Medieval, not Etruscan

The Capitoline Wolf, she doesn't look a day over 1000The bronze sculpture of a she-wolf nursing the infants Romulus and Remus that is the star of tourist stall t-shirts all over Rome is not the masterpiece of Etruscan metalwork it has been reputed to be since the 18th century. The latest radiocarbon dating performed on organic residue from the casting process confirms that La Lupa, iconic symbol of Rome, was made in the 11th or 12th century, not the 5th or 6th century B.C.

The early history of the wolf is nebulous. It’s possible that she’s a copy of a genuine antique piece that once stood guard in front of the Lateran Palace, but that’s speculation based on descriptions of such a sculpture going back as far as the 10th century. The Capitoline Wolf we know today enters the historical record in 1471 when Pope Sixtus IV donated it and several genuine ancient bronzes to the Roman people. They were moved to Palazzo Dei Conservatori on the Capitoline, and would form the core of the new Capitoline Museum collection. It appears that the twins, probably the work of Florentine Old Master Antonio Pollaiolo, were added to the she-wolf around this time.

1960 Rome Olympics logoThere’s no controversy surrounding the Renaissance dating of Romulus and Remus, but the wolf’s symbolic power and sculptural quality has invested it with antiquity, whether it be Etruscan, Italian Greek or Roman. It was Johann Joachim Winckelmann, a German art historian, archaeologist and pioneer in the study of Greek, Etruscan and Greco-Roman art, who classified the wolf as Etruscan in his 1764 masterpiece The History of Art in Antiquity. According to Winckelmann, the curls and textures of the she-wolf’s pelt marked her as Etruscan; see the Chimera of Arezzo, a genuine 5th century B.C. Etruscan sculpture, for an example of that style.

Although other scholars contested Winckelmann’s classification and suggested far later production dates, the Capitoline Wolf’s ancient origin, be it Etruscan, Roman or Greek, was popularly assumed to be true until 1996 when art historian Anna Maria Carruba was assigned to restore the bronze. She was the first person allowed to fully examine the sculpture in detail, and she found that it was cast in one complete piece using the lost wax method. The ancients cast bronze sculptures in pieces and then fused them together. This method allowed them to make more elaborate pieces with no risk of total failure. Single-piece casting was a medieval technique, used to produce objects like bells and cannon that needed a reliably rigid structure to function properly.

Roman politicians weren’t thrilled with this discovery. It took years of discussion before scientific dating of the she-wolf was allowed, then more years before the results were published.

“The new dating ranges between 1021 and 1153,” said Lucio Calcagnile, who carried out radiocarbon tests at the University of Salento’s Center for Dating and Diagnostics.

Using accelerator mass spectrometry, the researchers extracted, analyzed and radiocarbon dated organic samples from the casting process. The results revealed with an accuracy of 95.4 percent that the sculpture was crafted between the 11th and 12th century AD.

Huge Celtic coin hoard found on Jersey after 30 years

Celtic coins from massive hoard found on Jersey, ca. 50 B.C.After 30 years of searching one particular field on the Channel Island of Jersey, metal detectorists Reg Mead and Richard Miles have found an enormous hoard of Roman and Celtic coins from approximately 50 B.C. Archaeologists have excavated it from the clay in a solid block measuring 55 x 31.5 x 8 inches and weighing three quarters of a ton. The block contains an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 coins, for a possible total market value of $5-16 million (£3-10 million).

Mead’s and Miles’ epic quest began after a woman told them that her father had found some ancient coins when he removed a hedgerow from a field. The coins had been buried in an earthenware pot which shattered when the plant was uprooted, scattering silver coins all over the place. Father and daughter collected the coins in a small potato sack, then ploughed under the remains of the pot and other assorted debris. She described the coins to them and they recognized them as Iron Age coins from when the Brittany Celts lived on Jersey.

She didn’t remember exactly where the discovery was made, just the general area, and the current owner of the field farmed it actively so he would only allow them to search during a brief window after harvest. For 30 years, they searched the field during that brief window, a total of maybe 15 hours of work each year. When time was up, they had to wait until the next year’s crop was in to try again.

60 coins found in FebruaryIn February of this year, they found something: 60 Celtic coins, 59 of them silver and one of them gold. After three decades coming up empty, those 60 coins signaled that they might have finally found the location the farmer’s daughter had told them about so long ago. They dug down deeper and found a large solid object. Reg Mead dug up a chunk of earth from the top and found five or six silver coins.

They immediately stopped what they were doing and reported the find and location to Jersey Heritage. Jersey Heritage sent staff archaeologists to explore the find and enlisted the aid of Robert Waterhouse from the Société Jersiaise, Dr. Philip de Jersey, Celtic coin expert and States of Guernsey archaeologist, plus volunteers including the finders, the farmer who owns the land and their family members.

Solid block of coins excavated from the fieldJersey Heritage’s curator of archaeology Olga Finch said: “This is an incredibly important archaeological find of international significance.

“The fact that it has been excavated archaeologically is also rare and will greatly enhance the level of information we can glean about the people who buried it.

“It is an amazing contribution to the study of Celtic coins. We already have a number of very important Iron Age coin hoards found in the island, but this new addition will make Jersey a magnet for Celtic coin researchers. It reinforces just how special Jersey’s archaeology is.”

Dr. de Jersey agrees, noting that coin specialists often spend their lives researching their field by looking at pictures in books or at artifacts behind glass in museum exhibits. Getting the chance to excavate coins in situ is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The finders and landowner would like to see the hoard exhibited in Jersey, but the question of who owns it and is entitled to reimbursement of its value is up in the air. Jersey is a self-governing Crown Dependency, and has been since 1204 when King John lost all his lands in Normandy to French King Philip II Augustus but was allowed to keep the Channel Islands.

[Reg Mead] said: “We have declared this hoard as the trove, treasure trove, which was an ancient law that gave you, if within a reasonable amount of time you declared them, the full monetary value. We are testing that case because the powers that be have said the practice of trove doesn’t exist in Jersey any more.”

Mr Mead said it was the first important find with metal detectors ever in Jersey.

He said: “There are two laws, in Jersey anyone who wants to follow the law can use the English or the old French. If they don’t like the practice of trove then the old French law is finders keepers. Richard, myself and the land owner have an agreement between us, we are entitled to that hoard.”

Neil Mahrer from Jersey Heritage excavates the blockIt will take researchers a long time to excavate all the individual coins from the block and the estimated numbers may change like they have with the Beau Street Hoard, but it’s likely this will prove to be the largest Iron Age hoard ever discovered on Jersey. Before this, the largest find was more than 11,000 coins discovered in 1935 at La Marquanderie.

Most of the hoards found in Jersey have been coins from the Coriosolite tribe, a Celtic tribe from what is now Brittany on the northwestern coast of France. First century B.C. hoards are the most common because the populations were under pressure from Julius Caesar’s legions. Caesar describes his encounters with the coastal tribes of the area he called Armorica in The Gallic Wars. The Coriosolite, aka Curiosolite, aka the Curiosolitae are first mentioned in Book 2, Chapter 34 as one of the maritime states that surrendered to his delegate, Publius Licinius Crassus (son of Marcus Licinius Crassus, one of the richest men in history, famed for his brutal defeat of Spartacus and for joining Caesar and Pompey in the First Triumvirate) in 57 B.C.

Armorican tribes in Brittany; Jersey is the big island closest to the coastThat surrender didn’t take. A year later, the Veneti, the most prominent of the Armorican tribes, along with their Armorican neighbors captured some of Caesar’s officers to exchange them for hostages the Romans had taken. Caesar had to muster all the considerable engineering talents of the Roman army to fight the Veneti in their well-defended strongholds. When they fled to the sea, Caesar had his troops build ships, but they couldn’t compete with the locals’ heavy navy and sailing expertise in the treacherous waters of the Channel and Atlantic.

He did it in the end, though. He destroyed the Veneti fleet using giant billhooks to sever the lines used to hoist the mainsails. With the sails on the deck, the Celtic ships were entirely out of commission. They couldn’t even row because the huge sails cloaked the deck. Caesar then went from coastal town to coastal town and killed everyone. Those he didn’t kill he sold into slavery. The few who managed to get away fled to nearby Jersey and/or went on to Britain, hence the preponderance of Coriosolite hoards discovered in Brittany and Jersey.

The Daily Mail article has the best pictures of the hoard. The BBC has video of the excavation and crane lifting out the block.